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Remarks of Mary Lou Leary, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General
Office of Justice Programs

2010 Project Safe Neighborhoods National Conference
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
New Orleans, LA

       Thank you, Ken. I'm pleased to be here.

       I'd like to thank Ken and the ATF - and all our federal partners - for working with us over the years. We all know Project Safe Neighborhoods as a partnership across disciplines and across levels of government, but I don't think we emphasize enough the extraordinary degree of collaboration we've managed to achieve on the federal level. I don't know if you can really appreciate that if you haven't spent time in the federal government. Or maybe the opposite is true. . . But take my word for it, getting federal agencies to agree on a course of action is rarely easy. But that's exactly what we've managed to do through PSN.

       We all know that budgets and funding cycles change over the course of time. We know that PSN was not included as an item in the President's 2011 budget request. But we also know that we have learned a great deal from PSN that should be incorporated in the Department's violent crime strategy as we move forward. So what role does the Department of Justice and the Office of Justice Programs have in sustaining - and building on - the progress that all of you have made through PSN?

       As Laurie suggested, we're at a very interesting moment. We've developed some successful strategies for reducing violent crime, and we're seeing real results. At the same time - as you know better than anyone - we're still facing some stubborn challenges, particularly with regard to gangs and youth violence.

       The National Center for Juvenile Justice just released its report, Juvenile Court Statistics, which was funded by our Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. It found that juvenile arrests for robbery went up 35 percent between 2003 and 2007, and juvenile court cases for robbery went up 45 percent. Overall, according to the report, violent crime involving juveniles went up 13 percent during that period. I'm sure we'd all agree that's cause for serious concern.

       The issue of youth violence is one the Department of Justice is paying close attention to - and doing something about. This year, our Juvenile Justice office made almost $9 million available to help communities develop comprehensive strategies for preventing youth violence. That program builds on work we've done using the Comprehensive Gang Model. We have seen this approach work - most recently in cities like Los Angeles and Richmond, Virginia - because it combines targeted enforcement with educational and employment opportunities for at-risk youth, social interventions like street outreach and mentoring, and broader efforts to engage and mobilize the community.

       President Obama's budget request for 2011 incorporates that model and puts a strong emphasis on evidence-based approaches. He's asking Congress for $12 million for a Gang and Youth Violence Prevention Initiative to help communities develop solutions that are tailored to local conditions, but based on a framework that we know produces results.

       He's also asking for $25 million for a separate Community-Based Violence Prevention Initiative. That will build on evidence-based programs like Chicago CeaseFire, the High Point Drug Market Intervention model, and other approaches that have proven results.

       There's $37 million for the Attorney General's Children Exposed to Violence Initiative. We know from research and practical experience that early exposure to violence is strongly linked to later criminal behavior. We need to better understand that link and continue to develop ways to take kids out of that cycle of violence. A substantial portion of these funds would go toward evidence-based demonstration and seed projects in local communities.

       We also intend to continue our investment in other evidence-based programs. Laurie mentioned the Smart Policing Initiative. The President's budget requests $10 million for a continuation next year. And an additional $10 million would go toward a Smart Probation program, which Laurie also talked about.

       Another item in the President's budget is a new initiative called the Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation Program, or BCJI, for short. BCJI will build on the Weed and Seed program that many of you are involved in, but it would put an even greater focus on place-based and evidence-based practices. It'll also allow for greater flexibility to support innovative partnerships. In some sites, grantees will work hand in hand with a program funded by the Department of Education called Promise Neighborhoods. In others, we'll partner with HUD's Choice Neighborhoods programs. BCJI will add the public safety element to these initiatives, and the U.S. Attorneys would play an important leadership role.

       But the best news about BCJI is that the amount proposed is significantly higher - $40 million, which is double the amount available for Weed and Seed this year.

       Of course, everything being proposed in the President's budget is in the hands of Congress and subject to its approval. If funding is approved for these initiatives, I encourage you to look to them as potential resources for the work you are doing in your own communities.

       And while we wait, our Community Capacity Development Office is in the process of awarding 112 continuation Weed and Seed grants. Current Weed and Seed sites will be able to use these funds until they're expended. They'll also have the opportunity to revise their current program and apply for the new program.

       In the meantime, we encourage you to become familiar with our grant application tools. If you go to our Web site - ojp.gov - you'll find two things that should be very helpful.

       First, we have our program plan, which outlines funding opportunities and current agency initiatives. It also provides information on training and technical assistance.

       Second, we have a function called OJP Grants 101 that provides step-by-step guidance on how to apply for funding. It also offers tips on how to find funding opportunities and how to write strong applications.

       You can also visit Grants.gov for comprehensive information about federal funding opportunities, and I'd encourage you to get in touch with your state administering agencies to find out what resources are available from your states. We have a list of those agencies and links to their Web sites on our own Web site.

       PSN has been vital to our collective success in reducing crime. Your efforts demonstrate that bringing stakeholders together from across the spectrum - and from across levels of government - can produce real results in reducing gun and gang crime. In my view, our next step is to take the lessons you've learned and show others how they can adapt them to their own circumstances.

       The approach we're taking - the one reflected in many of our current programs and in the President's budget - tries to achieve that. We want to make sure that we're helping communities identify their own challenges, mobilize and coordinate their local partners, and develop solutions that are both smart on crime and tailored to local priorities and resources.

       Thank you very much.

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